MIT’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory

GHG Introduction

MIT's greenhouse gas inventory

Why conduct a Greenhouse Gas Inventory?

Each year, MIT measures campus carbon emissions to better understand our impact on the health of people and the environment, and to inform our carbon reduction strategy. The current inventory includes emissions in three areas: owned & leased buildings, fugitive gases, and campus vehicles. In October 2015, MIT set a goal to use the campus as a “test bed” for climate action, and develop solutions to reduce campus emissions by at least 32 percent by 2030 and aspire toward achieving carbon neutrality as soon as possible. The inventory is being used to inform MIT’s carbon reduction plans and as a tool for campus learning and engagement.

With the underlying energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) data publicly available, staff, students, and faculty can use the inventory to support the Institute’s efforts to identify ways to reduce MIT’s emissions, understand related energy and emission trends, and refine data collection methods.

MIT has published its first Campus Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Strategy, which lays out the pathways and strategies that will guide the MIT administration in meeting or surpassing MIT's greenhouse gas emission reduction goal. A two-page summary of progress through 2016 is also available.

To learn more:

Read the recent MIT News article on the release of the 2016 MIT GHG inventory here. Check out the MIT News article on the release of the 2014 and 2015 inventories here. Download the MIT Greenhouse Gas Inventory FAQ. Read MIT's Campus Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Strategy report here.

MIT Campuus
Photo: AboveSummit with Christopher Harting



A greenhouse gas inventory assesses the quantity of greenhouse gases the Institute produces, and identifies the emissions’ sources. The MIT Office of Sustainability (MITOS) uses the Operational Control Approach as defined by the World Resources Institute’s GHG Protocol, the worldwide corporate and campus standard for greenhouse gas emissions measurement. The GHG Protocol defines emissions using three "scopes," which are detailed below along with the specific greenhouse gases measured. 

MIT currently measures emissions from owned & leased academic buildings, fugitive gases, and campus vehicles. The emissions from these activities are calculated using the Campus Carbon Calculator — the most commonly used inventory tool for universities — which converts data into a single unit: metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e).

MITOS conducts and manages the annual inventories in collaboration with the Department of Facilities and the Environment, Health and Safety Office. The MIT Office of Treasury and Planning audits the findings for accuracy. MIT plans to expand the scope of its GHG inventory in the future and actively engage the academic and operational community in the use, refinement, and application of the inventory in order to reduce the carbon intensity of the campus.

2016 GHG Inventory

2016: Moving from plan to action

After establishing its first campus-wide greenhouse gas reduction goal last year, MIT continued to measure its emissions while implementing reduction strategies, in pursuit of significantly lowering its carbon impact over time. For fiscal year 2016, MIT measured its greenhouse gas emissions from three areas (as it did in 2014 and 2015): owned & leased academic buildings, fugitive gases, and campus vehicles.

Since 2014 – MIT’s baseline year for its 32 percent reduction goal – total greenhouse gas emissions have declined, as the campus strives for carbon neutrality. Between FY2014 and FY2016, the campus achieved a 7 percent reduction in overall emissions: from 213,428 MTCO2e in FY2014 to 198,038 MTCO2e in FY2016.  For FY2016, reductions in MIT’s own building emissions accounted for the vast majority of the total GHG reduced, followed by reductions in fugitive gases and fleet vehicle emissions. Ninety-seven percent of the Institute's emissions were associated with the operation of labs, offices, and other building facilities across campus. Fugitive gas emissions and campus vehicle use comprised two and one percent of campus emissions, respectively.

Read the recent MIT News story on the 2016 GHG Inventory here.

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Reduction strategies

MIT reduced its GHG emissions between FY2014 and FY2016 through several strategies, including investments in energy efficiency, use of cleaner fuels, and improvements in grid-purchased electricity. Successful energy efficiency strategies included investments in new construction and renovation, lighting, building retro- and monitoring based-commissioning, mechanical system upgrades, and utility distribution system insulation.

Investments in energy efficiency continued to have a strong impact on the reduction of emissions. In FY2016 alone, MIT invested over $3 million in energy efficiency measures through its Efficiency Forward program, achieving an estimated 7,344,500 kWh savings of electricity and 700,000 therms of heating and cooling energy, generating an anticipated annual savings of over $1.5 million.

Looking forward, MIT recognizes that investing in renewable energy by deploying additional renewable energy systems on campus and enabling off-site renewable energy production is a key component of our plan. The Institute recently formed an alliance for the development of a 60 megawatt solar photovoltaic farm in North Carolina that led to a long-term power purchase agreement. MIT will purchase solar energy equivalent to 40 percent of its current electricity use, which will neutralize emissions by 17 percent. 

building fuel source
MIT GHG Inventory Resources

GHG Inventory Overview and Data

2015 Inventory

2015: Taking steps to lower energy use

The 2015 inventory shows the results of the second year of comprehensive campus greenhouse gas emissions assessment. Ninety-seven percent of the Institute's emissions were associated with the operation of labs, offices, and other building facilities across campus. Fugitive gas emissions and campus vehicle use comprised two and one percent of campus emissions respectively. The total reduction in emissions is 12,408 MTCO2e from FY2014 to FY2015. The six percent reduction was primarily achieved through:

  • The implementation of energy efficiency measures in buildings.

  • Several buildings were partially or fully offline for renovation (Buildings 2, 66, and E52) during the period. These buildings will resume full operation in FY2016.

  • Modest reductions attributed to weather variation.

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building fuel source

2014 Inventory

2014: Establishing a baseline

FY2014 is the baseline year for the MIT emissions reduction goal and represents the first year of streamlined and comprehensive greenhouse gas data collection. 

In FY2014, the largest source of campus emissions was the energy used to heat, cool, and power buildings. Ninety-eight percent of the Institute's emissions were associated with the operation of labs, offices, and other building facilities across campus. The inventory includes buildings owned and leased by MIT for research, teaching, and administrative purposes on the Cambridge campus. Leased space accounts for less than two percent of the total emissions. The 2014 inventory does not include MIT Investment Management Company (MITIMCo) properties outside of those leased to the Institute for campus use. Fugitive gas emissions and campus vehicle use comprised less than three percent of emissions.

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fuel source breakdown

Past & Future

Past & Future 

MIT has set a greenhouse gas reduction goal of at least 32 percent below a 2014 baseline by 2030 in a report released in October 2015, “A Plan for Action on Climate Change.”  To learn more about the community-wide conversation, committee, and recommendations that led to this goal and other campus climate commitments, visit the MIT Climate Action website.  

In 2016, a greenhouse gas working group was launched in partnership with the MIT Office of Sustainability (MITOS) and the departments of FacilitiesPlanning and Environment, Health and Safety to create a roadmap to achieving the 32 percent reduction goal. Work has already begun to integrate low-carbon design and innovation into campus operations. 

Released in Fall 2015, the MIT Campus Sustainability Working Group Recommendations provide a guiding set of principles for sustainable design and construction, green labs, stormwater and land, and materials and waste management. These recommendations call for and provide clear steps forward to engage the campus as a living laboratory and model of sustainable, low-carbon solutions. 

Commitment to Continual Improvement

MIT has adopted a greenhouse gas inventory process in line with leading industry practice. Our data gives us an accurate representation of campus emissions to the best of our knowledge. Improvement is not only expected but is a focus of our work as we seek to apply and invent cutting edge GHG management research and data collection methods. Emissions from employee commuting, business air travel, purchasing, and waste (additional standard areas of measurement) are not currently included in the inventories, but are being considered for future inclusion.